Windows of Deliciousness
14 Dec 2006
The other day at work we discussed what I will call “windows of deliciousness” over lunch. A window of deliciousness is the period of time during which a certain kind of food is at its most delicious. Most hot foods start out at peak deliciousness, but once they cool down to a certain extent, they are no longer what could be termed “delicious.” The window of deliciousness for many types of food, from “straight out of the kitchen” to “too cold” might last 10 minutes or so. But there are exceptions.
Take for example the Chinese 小笼包. These little dumplings are well known as one of Shanghai’s tastiest treats, but they’re also the culprit in countless consumption casualties. These little dumplings house a scalding dose of “soup” capable of melting the face off of unwary foreigners. The little dumplings are, admittedly, very good, but the wise always let them sit a little while before digging in. (The wise remember how long it took them to grow all those taste buds back.)
小笼包 have yet another special quality. If you let them sit so long that they get cold, they’re not good at all! This is where the window of deliciousness comes in. Due to their special circumstances, these little dumplings have a window of deliciousness of approximately 30 seconds. (OK, maybe 45.)
This got me thinking about western food, and how its windows of deliciousness might compare. I immediately thought of pizza, and realized that pizza is just as special in terms of window of deliciousness as 小笼包, but for the opposite reasons.
Freshly made pizza is delicious. Sure, the cheese might be hot at first, but it’s nothing like the lethal lava-broth that the tiny devil dumplings are packing. As pizza cools, it loses a bit of its deliciousness, but the story doesn’t end there. You take the uneaten portion home and plant it in your refrigerator. In that wintry cocoon your pizza undergoes a miraculous phase transition. It is no longer just “pizza.” It emerges from the metamorphosis an entirely new animal: leftover pizza.
Leftover pizza is different because you eat it cold. In that state, its window of deliciousness has gotten a second wind, which fades only as the pizza once again approaches room temperature. That’s not much of a concern, however, because the chances are good that the pizza will never survive that long. Let me reiterate the important point: pizza has two windows of deliciousness, both of respectable length. This is frickin’ amazing.
I can’t confirm it quite yet, but I think this research may lead directly to the ultimate, incontrovertible triumph of western food over Chinese cookery. I am quite certain that when faced with this new evidence the Chinese will gracefully concede defeat in this long and bitter war of the cuisines.